Pandemic Marketing: Sponsored Face Masks On Sports TV

Near-term entertainment/sports live events may look like what Walt Disney has begun with its re-opening in Shanghai Disneyland: Small restricted crowds with all guests in face masks.

It’s about consumer acceptance and marketing adjustments. Asian countries are far more comfortable about wearing face masks, due to the history of infectious diseases in the recent past.

China regulators will only allow Disney to operate at 30% of its capacity. Bob Chapek, CEO of Walt Disney, speaking to CNBC, said the government will allow attendance to slowly expand at the park -- adding 5,000 visitors per week.

South Korea started its baseball KBO League, where games have some fans in attendance -- a fraction of their baseball stadiums capacity -- around 1,000 people. (Those games can air live in the wee hours of the morning on ESPN.)

Think this model could work in the U.S.?

U.S. sports leagues are considering similar operations as they look to resume. Reports say Major League Baseball will start in July. The NFL recently announced its fall game schedules.



Expand on this -- not just to programming/content -- but to TV network advertisers, including restaurants, movie theaters and airlines. Perhaps they could start running at 25% to 30% capacity -- keeping social distancing intact. While that sounds promising, it would still mean unprofitable business in the near term.

And then we come back to the idea of masks. How can content owners/marketers make them acceptable?

Consider face masks as an ad medium.  

The airing ESPN’s “Johnsonville ACL Cornhole Championship” recently gives us a hint. That’s the sport where teams throw 16-ounce bags of corn kernels into a hole of raise rectangular boards some 40 to 45 feet away.

Teams like the Mid-Atlantic Cornhole sponsored face masks for its recent event in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The new normal on TV: face branding -- at a price.

There more to come. Earlier this month, NFL teams started selling sports team-branded face masks online, which might start appearing on the sidelines of games this fall on players.

Take it one step further. Fans in stand? How to get them to wear a face mask, perhaps without the self-consciousness some might feel?

Would people feel better -- less strange, less scary -- if they got paid to wear a masks with a Nike, AT&T, Pepsi, Uber, or Netflix logo? Mask marketing executives are facing up to the answer.


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